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Despite its relatively small size compared to peer institutions, the School of Nursing was recently ranked first in federal research funding by the National Institute of Health.

The University of California San Francisco was ranked second with $8.8 million and the University of Washington was third with $8.5 million.

The NIH is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that distributes funding on a “competitive basis” to research institutions and universities, Vice President of the Office of Government and Community Affairs Jeffrey Cooper wrote in an e-mail.

“The School of Nursing’s ranking demonstrates the very strong research priorities of the faculty and the quality of their proposals,” Cooper added.

According to Vice Provost of Research Steven Fluharty, the five NIH top-ranked schools of nursing saw an average of an 11-percent decline in research dollars in the 2008 NIH fiscal year, whereas Penn had a 12-percent increase.

The NIH awards are an indicator of “excellence” in teaching, research and clinical missions, Fluharty added.

Last year, the Nursing School was ranked second. Its jump to first place this year at $10.9 million in 2009 marks a 41-percent increase from 2008. This increase is a result of a “conscientious effort” to improve the funding, said Deborah Bruner, the interim associate dean for research for the Nursing School.

Penn Nursing has consistently been ranked among the top three or four schools for the past couple of years and “will strive to maintain” that position, Bruner said.

Nursing has invested in the recruitment of “stellar researchers,” and has provided an advanced program of research for faculty members, she added.

“In the last year, we have instituted a formal mechanism of internal grant review, peer review — especially for large awards — and we have restructured the office of nursing research in order to better facilitate grant submission and management,” Bruner added.

As a top nursing school, Penn Nursing is better able to recruit the “best pre-doctorate students, post-doctorate fellows and faculty,” Bruner said.

Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis echoed this sentiment.

“Being ranked as one of the top three schools of nursing reflects a commitment from our school and research centers to scientific developments that translate to best nursing practices,” she wrote in an e-mail. “This ranking helps us attract the best students and the most outstanding faculty.”

Students are excited about Penn Nursing’s commitment to research.

“Being ranked number one in NIH funding is not just a recognition of the nursing school’s excellence, but its incredible potential as well. It is exciting to know that my professors will be the ones to make a difference in this field,” Nursing sophomore Tova Miller said.

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